Preview: Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers 20th Anniversary Edition

Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers is one of my favourite adventure games, and my favourite of the Gabriel Knight series. So when the opportunity came along to test out a beta version of the 20th Anniversary Edition remake, I jumped at the chance. I’ve been trying out the two days included in the preview a couple of times, to playtest the game as much as possible.

The remake is in development, by Jane Jensen’s studio Pinkerton Road and Phoenix Online Studios, the same team that brought us Moebius earlier this year.

A few months ago I had the pleasure of interviewing Katie Hallahan from POS about this remake, and there are a few things you might need to know:

  • It’s a direct remake, so Gabriel is still stuck in the 1990s.
  • It has a completely new voice cast, as they couldn’t use the previous ones (I know Kim will be disappointed to hear Tim Curry isn’t involved).

So, let’s jump right to it, shall we?

It’s difficult to look at this game as an experience separate from the original, but then again, this is a remake, so comparisons are valid.

Let’s go over the bad stuff first:

  • The game needs more polish when it comes to visuals. A few times I saw visual glitches when characters took off or put on jackets, with their shirts or arms poking through the coat model. The first time I played the preview it happened every time Gabriel left the bookstore, but since then it’s stopped happening, though it still does with Grace at the end of each day.
    • The worst offender however is officer Franks pulling out the voodoo case file through the file cabinet drawer.
  • Some characters, especially Gracie, are a bit blank when it comes to expressions. Some lines they’ll deliver and have expressions but others they’ll deliver without even twitching, so the emotion delivered by the voice actor doesn’t match the character’s face. Malia has a similar problem but only on a couple of lines.

There are other things I’m not particularly happy with but I’ll mention them later on because they’re more mixed feelings than anything. And these two points I mentioned are, honestly, to be expected from a game in-development.

Now for the good bits:

  • They’ve changed where some itemsare located and the order of puzzles, and that means the game will be a fresh(ish) experience for both new and old players alike. In fact, playing the original is a handicap, or at least it was for me, because I kept thinking about where I knew items were and when I didn’t find them there, it threw me off.
    • An example is the first day’s snake scale pickup, which has been completely redesigned and I feel the new one is much better in how it fits with the scene.
  • The visual design is outstanding and the new art is fantastic. My favourite location, so far, is the Dixie Land Drugstore. The shadows and depth of colour add so much character and atmosphere. The Voodoo Museum and Graveyard (and the bookstore of course) also look fantastic.
  • Gabriel’s new voice actor sounds different from Tim Curry, but he’s incredibly sleazy (which I know Kim will appreciate), and his facial expressions match the voice-work perfectly.
  • Malia, Dr. John and Gracie sound identical to the original voice actors. If they aren’t the same people, I’m amazed.
  • The narrator is back. That one has to be the same actress.
  • Player score is in!
  • For simplicity, there’s now a new button to go directly to the map, which helps out a ton when you know what you have to do and just want to go as quickly as possible.
  • Another button now shows you concept art and storyboards and before and after pics from both the original and the development of the remake.
  • The music score is brand new, redone from scratch by Robert Holmes and it’s really good.

Lastly here are my mixed feeling points:

  • Gabriel moves very slowly.
  • During the mime puzzle, you can double click a location and he’ll just pop up there, as if moving on fast-forward, but afterwards you can’t do it anymore. It’s either in or it’s out, make up your minds.
  • Some locations are inaccessible during the first two days, as part of the overall streamlining of the game and the change-ups on puzzles and items. While I understand why it’s done, I feel removing them takes away some of the mystery. Before you had to guess where you had to go, or try every location available to you and talk to everyone for that little morsel that would take you to a new piece of the overall puzzle. By locking locations the players already know where the answer has to be.
  • Mosely’s voice acting, he’s lost almost all of his southern accent. It’s a minor point, but I liked his accent.

As I previously said, the game is still in development. I still don’t have a definite release date but you can bet your ass this game will get reviewed quite thoroughly on The Mental Attic. I’m guessing a few things will get polished or changed before the final release.

From what I’ve seen, I’m optimistic on the game and I think it’ll deliver a fresh experience for both newcomers to the series and old grizzled Gabriel Knight veterans like myself.

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